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April in Nepal usually means thousands of trekkers trudging up to Everest base camp. This spring the mountain is free of crowds but the trekkers are still trudging – up stairs, back steps, even up ladders in a virtual push to reach an altitude of 5,364 metres.
Led by trail runner Rory Southworth, a team of about 30 climbers will reach their target this evening after five days of climbing.
Southworth decided to organise a group challenge after receiving positive feedback online for three solo hikes during the first week of lockdown. “I did Snowdon on my bottom step; Ben Nevis on the seven stairs down to my garden; and ran up the hill at the back of my garden 29 times to scale Scafell Pike.
For this challenge, I wanted to bring people with me on the journey. There was a lot of negativity among the outdoor community about being confined at home and I wanted to give people a reason to exercise indoors.”
Documenting the trek on social media, Southworth has been posting photos of himself fully kitted out while ascending the stairs or eating his dinner in his tent pitched in his living room.
He usually completes each daily climb before breakfast but plans to do the final 50 metres with the group on Zoom this evening.
Southworth, who hasn’t done the trek in real life, says next week’s challenge is to trek the remaining 3,484 metres to the summit of Everest.
The rest of the group have been throwing themselves into the spirit of the challenge, sharing their progress on Twitter. Becky the Traveller tweeted this morning: “It’s the last day of #virtualEBC today, a cooler start but soon warmed up once I started hiking.”
Meanwhile, on the real-life mountain, a group of climbers found themselves stranded at base camp when flights in and out of Lukla were cancelled. They have since returned to Kathmandu.
“They’d had a lot of snow at base camp and the temperatures were about -15C so it was tough conditions for them to be stranded in. Luckily all the Sherpa guides who works for us know the local families and they were able to offer accommodation and food, they’ve been fantastic,” said Andy, managing director of EverTrek, which organised the trip.